Overpopulation, global food shortages and water wars. What the future will be like is unclear, but it will most likely be grim. The current trajectory of humankind is heading towards utter disaster. The aforementioned examples will be determining the face of our future world. Right. Doomsday predictions have been around ever since mankind learn the ability to speak, but so far none of them ever happen to be true. Lucky us. As for these problems, new technologies will most likely save our asses. Again.
‘The Sahara Forrest Project’, located in Qatar, is a company who is developing these new techniques to tackle the growing demand for fresh water and food. There is a reason why they call Earth ‘the blue planet’, we have lots of water. The only problem is that 97,5% of it is saline, useless for fresh water consumption or to grow crops with. The Sahara Forrest Project however, believes that saline water will be the key to solving the problem shortages of fresh water.
For years it has been possible to use distillation machines to turn saline water into fresh water. The major obstacle has been that the process costs lots of energy, too much to make it viable for large scale distillation. This is about to change though, because of solar energy. Solar energy used to be a relatively expensive way to generate energy, yet has seen major improvements. New solar pads are increasingly more efficient and more importantly, continue to become cheaper. In the past 30 years, the prices of solar energy have been plummeting and are expected to continue doing so. Consequently, this will eventually make solar power this cheap that energy will be almost for free.
Solar energy has a lot of potential and can be used for desalienation
If energy becomes nearly free, and the people of the Sahara Forrest Project are convinced it will, it would allow for large scale production of fresh water. For the production of crops, all one would need is a pipeline connected to the sea, a little bit of fertilizer and a piece of land with nothing in it, yet with lots of sun; a desert. This is exactly what the Sahara Forrest Project have made in Qatar: A pipeline bringing in sea water, a solar energy plant, a distillation facility and different kinds of green houses. By using new crops more resistant to the harsh desert condition and a little bit of fertilizer, they have been able to produce all kinds of crops, varying from wheat to cucumbers. And because of the sunny weather conditions, their harvest has been very good.
So far, this has only been a pilot project exploring the possibilities of this new approach of food production. In Australia however, a company named Sundrop Farms is already producing vegetables on a commercial basis solely of sunlight and seawater. It is possible to have clean drinking water and produce food in the middle of the desert. With food prices expected to rise, energy prices to keep on falling and both distillation and food production processes to become more efficient, this kind of food production will only become more attractive. Especially the Sahara, hence the name of the project, and the Arabian peninsula have great potential for industrial scale food production in this way. So again it seem that the doomsday preachers will be proven wrong. No food fights or water wars in our planet’s near future, we are to live another day. Lucky us.